I have an issue with my Dad's wife not giving me the money he left to me in his will. She says he had no money. It was only $5000.00. He gave her almost 2 million in property before he died. He put everything in her name 3 months before he died. They were only married 1 1/2 years before he was "killed". She was 42 years younger than he was.
Not a simple issue and a significant problem is that with the small amount of money involved it may be impractical to hire a lawyer to help (although you may have no choice but to try). Who was the executor (personal administrator) of the estate of your Dad? Was his new wife named? The executor has a fiduciary responsibility to carry out the terms of the will. A "fiduciary" is a position of trust that requires a high level of care and appropriate conduct. You might be able to inquire of the local surrogate's court (can be called probate court, orphan's court, or by other names depending where you live). There may be a way to bring a cause of action (commence a lawsuit) for the money. The court might have streamlined procedure to challenge a fiduciary who is not carrying out her duties appropriately.
The reality may be that your Dad transferred key assets to his new wife, or put them in joint name (with rights of survivorship, sometimes called JTWROS) so that she either owned or inherited those assets automatically by operation of law on his death. If so, there may be few or even no assets in the estate (this is one of the many reasons that just filling out a will may not mean much). For example, if your Dad retitled his house and a bank/brokerage account to joint name with his new wife, there may be no assets that actually pass under the will.
So when she says he had no money, she may be right, there may be no money in the estate (but from your question it sounds like she walked off with it all anyhow).
You say that he gave her almost 2 million in property before he died. He put everything in her name 3 months before he died. They were only married 1 1/2 years before he was "killed". She was 42 years younger than he was. It might be possible that this new wife was up to "no good" and planned this all along. However, you would have to hire an estate litigator in your state to sue and try to prove to a court that the gifts were invalid and the result of her undue influence. Not an easy task.
You should be aware that there are strict deadlines for filing some of these actions so you need to consult a lawyer quickly. Again, the unfortunate practical problem, for $5,000 if that is all that is involved it may be impractical to hire an attorney. You might want to find out if your local court has a part for small cases where you could bring the action on your own.
Subscribe to our email list to receive information on consumer webcasts and blogs, for practical legal information in simple English, delivered to your inbox. For more professional driven information, please visit Shenkman Law to subscribe.